Mark 10:17-23

Acts 8:26-39

Some time ago we were witnessing in the city centre, and we had been singing the hymn, ‘Just as I am’ (Hymn 446), when someone said, ‘Let’s sing it again!’ So we sang it again, and when we finished, a young woman came down from the shopping rows, and said, ‘I am from Dublin and I was brought up a Roman Catholic, but I never knew the Jesus that you were speaking about until today. I just want to tell you that while I have been listening, I have been asking God’s forgiveness for my sins, and I have asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my Saviour.’ That is the result we would desire from this meeting tonight!

I remember, many years ago, visiting an elderly lady in hospital. She was 83 years of age, and was facing a serious operation the next day. She told me that she came to know Jesus when she was 79 years of age, and she got baptised when she was 80. And she said, ‘I have only one regret, and that is that I did not come to know Jesus sooner.’ “Now is the well-accepted time; behold, now the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).

I have read of two men because we learn a lot of things by contrast. Both had the same opportunity, but one went away sad, and the other went away glad! Our desire is that everyone may go away glad from this meeting tonight.

Jesus told us about two men who went up to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9‑14). One was a Pharisee – a very self-righteous, religious person. His prayer was full of himself, and how good he was compared to the other man – a tax-gatherer – who smote upon his breast and prayed saying, “O God, have compassion on me, the sinner.” Jesus said that the tax-gatherer “went down to his house justified.”

The Bible says that we are all sinners: “There is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:22‑23).

The prophet Isaiah says that we have all gone astray like sheep, and God has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all (Isa 53:6). So tonight God is offering to everyone a full and free salvation in the precious name of Jesus. What God requires is that we repent of our sins, and trust in Jesus as our own, personal, Saviour. Everything has been done by Jesus – as one of our hymns says,

What could you do that the Lord has not done?
What could you give, for your sins to atone?
Think you that God would have spared not His Son
If by a creature the work could be done?
(Hymn 484)

Jesus also tells us about a father who had two sons (Luke 15:11‑32). And one of them thought he could do better for himself if he had his inheritance early and could go and live his own life. And that is what he did – his father gave him his inheritance, and he went away to a far country, and had a great time, as he thought! He had plenty of friends while he had plenty of money –but his money ran out, and he ended up feeding pigs, and then he began to think seriously about his life, and about the implications of his actions, and about his father’s house, and he said, ‘In my father’s house there is abundance of food, and I am just feeding pigs!’ But he thought further, ‘In my father’s house even the servants have enough to eat.’ He said, ‘I know what I will do: I will rise up, and I will go to my father, and say, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.”’ And it says, “He rose up and went. … But while he was yet a long way off, his father saw him … and ran, and fell upon his neck, and covered him with kisses.” He was received back safe and well. And I can tell you that God has a welcome for you tonight!

The gospel goes out to ‘whosoever will.’ God makes no difference: whatever the colour of our skin, whether rich or poor, whether educated or uneducated, it does not make any difference to God. God places His value on our soul. The Bible says, “The redemption of [the] soul is costly” (Ps 49:8).

Jesus came from heaven to die upon Calvary’s cross, to bear our sins – my sins, which were many. And He bore them “in His body on the tree” (1 Pet 2:24), so that you could be forgiven.

The prodigal son was welcomed home, and God is ready to welcome all who will come the way of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The other son would not go into the house. His father went out and besought him to go in, but he would not. He was really angry that his brother, who had gone off into the far country and done all that he wanted to do, had now come back repentant and received a welcome, so he would not go in. God is beseeching you tonight to come in, to come into His favour, and to know His love, and all the blessing that He has for you.

Jesus speaks, in this first passage I read, of “treasure in heaven.” We live in a world where some people have so much money that they could never spend it all, but there are some things that money cannot buy, and they are the most important things. It cannot buy forgiveness. It cannot buy peace. It cannot buy eternal life, or the assurance of heaven and an eternity with Jesus. No, all the price has been paid! It was paid by Jesus on the Cross. It was paid, as our hymn said, in His own precious blood. That was the price that God paid to redeem us. The apostle Peter said we “have been redeemed, not by corruptible things, as silver or gold” (by money), “but by precious blood, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet 1:18‑19). It is Jesus’ precious blood, the Bible says, that “cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7)!

There were also two men who were crucified alongside Jesus, “one on this side, and one on that, and Jesus in the middle” (John 19:18). Jesus was the sinless One, but they, by their own admission, were guilty. We too are all guilty, for the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death; but the act of favour of God, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23). There they were, nailed on a cross, enduring an agonising death! One of them mocked Jesus, but the other one turned to Him in faith, and said to Jesus, “Remember me, Lord, when Thou comest in Thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42). What an amazing thing that was! Jesus was on the cross, dying, but this man somehow knew that He was going to come again in His kingdom. The Bible says that “He has been manifested for the putting away of sin by His sacrifice” (Heb 9:26). But He is going to come a second time without having to say to sin (v28) – He has done that once for all. The work is finished, it is complete and perfect, and is available for every man, woman and child. And Jesus is going to come again, a second time, and He is going to come for those who believe. ‘The Saviour is coming for all who believe’ (Hymn 324). Will you be among them?

I have read, firstly, of a very good-living man. He said he had kept all the law – he must have been an exceptional man to keep all the law! But the Scripture says that Jesus loved him. I can tell you, tonight, that Jesus loves you, too – what a Saviour! The love of Jesus – no-one can tell the love that brought Him down from heaven. Why He should leave His heavenly home and come to this dark and sinful world to die on the Cross for guilty sinners is beyond my comprehension. But it was His love for you and me!

The apostle Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first” (1 Tim 1:15). Do you know what he could say after he had come to Jesus? He said, “The Son of God, Who has loved me and given Himself for me” (Gal 2:20). That is amazing! I can say the same. It was for everyone, but it was for you, personally. Jesus suffered for my sins and yours, personally, on the Cross, so that we might be forgiven, and might know Him as our own and personal Saviour.

This man had great possessions, but he wanted eternal life. Jesus said, ‘There is one thing you lack’ – He put His finger on the fact that this man’s life was all in his possessions. He did not want them to be touched, he just wanted eternal life, and then he thought he could go on enjoying his possessions for ever and ever. Jesus said, ‘Go and sell what you have got, and come, follow Me.’ It says he was “sad at the word” – it challenged him as to whether he would  surrender to Jesus. But no – his possessions were more to him than JESUS, and so he went away sad!

Will you surrender all to Jesus tonight?

The other man I have read of had gone in a chariot, something like 1,500 miles up to Jerusalem. He must have been really serious about what he was looking for, and it does not appear that he found it at Jerusalem. Jerusalem was a great religious centre – but you will not find eternal life in religion. You will find it in Jesus, and in Jesus alone – He is the Giver of everlasting life. It says in the Book of Revelation, “He that will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). There is nothing to pay: the gospel comes to you without money, and without price – free. God holds out to you today the gift of everlasting life. What do you have to do? Take God at His word! “He that will, let him take the water of life freely.”

This Ethiopian man was returning in his chariot, and reading from the Prophet Isaiah, but he did not understand what he read, so God sent Philip, the evangelist, to speak to him. He went up to the chariot, and the eunuch said, ‘Whom was the prophet speaking about when he referred to Someone Who “was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and was as a sheep dumb before her shearers, and He opened not His mouth” (Isa 53:7)?’  And Philip, “beginning from that Scripture, announced the glad tidings of Jesus to him.”

The gospel is good news – there is nothing like it in this whole world. The glad tidings of Jesus! He was the Lamb. He was the One Who opened not His mouth at so many accusations. He was the One Who had come here to suffer and die upon Calvary’s Cross, and He was not going to turn aside. He was going all the way – the Bible says He was “obedient even unto death, and that the death of the Cross” (Phil 2:8). Philip told him the glad tidings of Jesus – how He came from heaven, how He lived a perfect life, and for three-and-a-half years went about “doing good, and healing all that were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). And how, at the end of that period, He was crucified, and suffered and died for our sins. Then He was put into the grave, and on the third day He rose again. ‘Christ is risen! Hallelujah!’ (Hymn 369). He is alive for evermore – Jesus said, “I am … the living One: and I became dead, and behold, I am living to the ages of ages” (Rev 1:17‑18). What a wonderful Saviour!

This is what this man had been looking for: he was looking for something for his heart – something to satisfy his soul. Friend, none but Christ can satisfy. If you have Him, you have far more than silver or gold. Someone wrote a lovely hymn,

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I’d rather have Jesus than riches untold!

This man was an important man, a very wealthy man, no doubt, but now he had something better, he had Jesus – he had put his trust in Jesus. And going along the way he saw water, and he said, ‘Can I be baptised?’ He was ready to surrender. We have spoken of one man who did not surrender to Jesus, who had gone away with his possessions, but without hope, without peace, without forgiveness – and yet it was all available, it was there for him. But this man surrendered – he surrendered to Jesus, and he went down and was baptised, and he was really saying, ‘I want to commit myself to Jesus for the rest of my life.’ That is really what baptism is – it is not just a religious ceremony, it is the person who has trusted Jesus saying, ‘I want to live for Jesus from this point on.’ And tonight the gospel is preached that you might repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus, and be baptised and commit yourself to the Saviour.

He is coming back soon – we do not know when, but we believe it will be soon. It may be today, it may be tomorrow, we do not know; but we feel the coming of Jesus is very near. He is going to come in an instant, “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor 15:52) – there will be no time then to repent and believe, the time for that is now! “Behold, now is the well-accepted time; behold, now the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). If you put your trust in Jesus tonight, as your own personal Saviour, then you will go on your way rejoicing!

May God bless each one of you, for His name’s sake!

1 November 2009